Introductory Talk

Celebration of the 65th Anniversary of the Liberation of St. Jean de Maurienne and Reconciliation between France and Austria

Introductory Talk by Dietrich Seidel

Why do we meet and enjoy dinner together? There are three reasons:

  1. First, I have the honor to share with you my experience with efforts made in promoting interreligious dialogue in the US and Europe, in order to advance the goal of world peace through mutual respect among different religious traditions.
  2. Second, we will become familiar with principles that support peaceful relationships among human beings. We will also learn about peace-building activities on the individual, national and global levels. It will become clear that throughout human history all those who stood up for the vision of universal peace had to endure a life of suffering and sacrifice.
  3. Third, today we will celebrate several new Ambassadors for Peace and at the same time we will realize that each life has the potential for contributing to the process of building a world of cooperation and harmony.

Let me now share with you some of my life experience. After studying electrical engineering in my native city of Vienna in Austria, I felt a strong calling to come to the United States and study theology. Now I have been living for 35 years in North America. After my studies at the Toronto School of Theology at the University of St. Michael’s College, I embarked on my teaching career at the Unification Theological Seminary and Marist College, both in upstate New York, with a focus on three areas.

  1. Marriage and Family Enrichment: The Healing of Loving Human Relationships
  2. World Religions and Interfaith Dialogue: The Path to Enduring Peace
  3. Religion and Science: The Unity of the Spiritual and Physical Dimensions

While developing a career as a professor of theology, philosophy and social studies on the graduate and undergraduate levels in colleges and universities, I soon realized that academic studies are at best the foundation for healing and reconciliation. To say it differently, the goal in our lives remains the actual experience of finding peace and fulfillment within ourselves and in our relationships with others.

Looking back at my teaching career, I had the most profound experience of witnessing the process of peace-making in classes where students from different ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds would study together and become close friends. In one World Religions class at the International University, Vienna, there were 30 students from about 15 different countries, representing the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. We all studied with diligence the major religious traditions of the world and many times I sensed a spirit of mutual respect emerging when Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Taoists interacted, trying to understand religious traditions not one’s own. I had parallel experiences when teaching at the Unification Theological Seminary in upstate New York and at Webster University in Vienna, Austria. I felt that here were the seeds of peace-making, opening up a new future based on mutual respect and understanding, thus overcoming the painful barriers of the past.

Thank you for your attention.